How to Create a Daily Exercise Habit

Exercise needs to be a daily habit, but it’s one of the first things we sacrifice when our lives get busy. Work, school, kids, commutes, TV, and other things compete for our time and energy. If we’re always trying to squeeze in a workout here and there, it normally never happens. And doing one big workout on the weekend doesn’t work either.

Exercise needs to be consistent, similar to eating and sleeping. Your body was made to move. Being hunched over a computer sitting at your desk every day doesn’t help either.

I’ve been there before.

When work was tough and my wife and I were dealing with the infant months of our first daughter, I sacrificed my exercise time. I was exhausted already with everything else. Exercise just didn’t make much sense in the whole mix of my life. And since I wasn’t exercising as much, I didn’t pay attention to what I ate or how much I ate. I ballooned from 180 pounds to 205 pounds over the course of a year or so. When I saw the scale tip at 205 pounds, that was my wake up call.

So I got back in the gym.

I started running. I started eating right. I set goals and once I achieved those goals, I set higher goals. Over a few years, I went from 205 pounds to 169 pounds. I lost 4 inches off my waist and was at my high school physique. This was in late 2014 when I trained for the Honolulu Marathon.

26.2 miles. Check.

Training for the marathon got me in the habit of running daily, which I still do now. I’m back at my optimal weight of 180 pounds, my six-pack is reappearing, and I’ve got all the energy I need each day.

It’s all because I started an exercise habit and have kept it going over the years, with no excuses. It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling, taking care of two kids, working long hours, or tired.

Here are the steps you can take to make exercise a daily habit in your life:

  1. Put it on your schedule like a meeting on your calendar. Commit a time every day to exercise. If it’s not on your schedule, it will never be. Squeezing in workouts here and there isn’t a sustainable and reliable way to exercise. Once you make an appointment with yourself to exercise, show up and get it done.
  1. Exercise as early in the day as possible. You’re well rested, you have less distractions, and it starts your day on the right start. As you get more into the day, things are bound to come up that you could use as an excuse not to workout, such as lunch, dinner, work, being tired, etc.
  1. Find a place that’s convenient and comfortable for you. Some people like the gym for treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, and exercise machines. Others like running outdoors. Some people like going to exercise classes. Others like playing basketball. Find your sweet spot and stick to it. You’ve got to enjoy your exercise, so it needs to be done in a place that’s right for you.
  1. Set goals for yourself. It may be completing a half marathon, Spartan race, or just fitting into a pair of jeans. It may even just be running 5 miles on the treadmill in the morning. You need goals and you can set goals for yourself every day, every week, and every year for your exercise.
  1. Get an accountability partner. If you don’t have enough self-motivation to exercise daily, get someone to do it with. He or she will keep you accountable since it’s harder to not show up when someone else is counting on you. Some people opt for personal trainers. Not only are you accountable to your personal trainer, putting money behind your exercise habit might just be enough motivation to show up.

Don’t take your health for granted. Exercise is the antidote for most diseases and depression. Make exercise a daily part of your life.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.